Dunn’s Civics > Feeding the Troops

The Invisible Army

Who feeds the army?

The bulk of transporting, cooking and serving food to the US army in Iraq and Aghanistan is not done by the Army at all; it is done by what are called Third Country Nationals (TCNs), recruited from the most impoverished areas of South Asia and Africa. 


The recruiting agencies not only provide drivers to deliver the food, cooks to prepare it and “fast-food clerks” to serve it, they also furnish cleaners, construction workers, electricians, and beauticians: a total of more than 70,000 people in Iraq alone. 

The expansion of private-security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan is well known. But armed security personnel account for only about 16% of the contracting force. The vast majority are not hired guns, but hired hands - the Pentagon’s “invisible army,” as Sarah Stillman reported for the New Yorker, June 6, 2011, with funding from NYU’s Reporting Award.

Sarah Stillman

Sarah Stillman

Here’s a typical example from Sarah’s article of how the invisible army is recruited and treated. 

“A twenty-five-year-old Taco Bell employee on a major U.S. base in Iraq told me that he had paid a recruiting agency in Nepal four thousand dollars. ‘You’ll make the money back so quick in Iraq!’ he was assured. When he arrived in Baghdad, in May, 2009, he was housed in a (40 ft) shipping container behind the U.S. Embassy, in the Green Zone, where he slept on soiled mattresses with twenty-five other migrants from Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. Many learned that they were to earn as little as two hundred and seventy-five dollars a month as cooks and servers for U.S. soldiers—a fraction of what they’d been promised, and a tiny sliver of what U.S. taxpayers are billed for their labor.” 

Their hours of work: 12 hours per day and 7 days a week. On top of that, this work takes place in extremely dangerous war zones. Sarah: “Since 2001, more than two thousand contractor fatalities and more than fifty-one thousand injuries have been reported in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the first time in American history, private-contractor losses are now on a par with those of U.S. troops in both war zones, amounting to fifty-three per cent of reported fatalities in the first six months of 2010.”



Who is behind these outrageous violations of human rights? 

Who recruits the recruiters?

Go to “Army Contractors.”